Alexa finally gets a new name and voice: How to change them up on your Amazon Echo

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The digital assistant I’ve always called Alexa has a new name — Ziggy — and a new, characteristically masculine-sounding voice, too. You’re free to mix — and remix — those options however you want, since there are separate settings for voice and wake word (and one isn’t linked to the other).

This isn’t the first time you’ve had options — Alexa already had other, er, “names” (if you can call them that). You can already set your Echo device to respond to “Amazon,” “Echo,” or “Computer” as well as “Alexa.”

But “Ziggy” is the first name name to appear as an option besides “Alexa.” Although some have suggested “Ziggy” signals a “masculine” name, I’m not so sure. For me, it’s evocative of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona — an alien androgyne from the future, sent to help Earth. Coincidence? But I digress…

Regardless, even though the AI that powers Amazon Echo smart speakers is known colloquially as Alexa — and the voice that has up until now embodied those speakers sounds characteristically feminine — if you ask, Alexa will tell you: “As an AI, I don’t have a gender.”

Of course, the three celebrity voice options you can pay to put on your Amazon Echo device — Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy and Shaquille O’Neal — are all gendered. But those add-ons don’t replace everything Alexa says — just a few select responses, like weather, timers and a few more.

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Amazon’s voice assistant lives on all sorts of Echo smart speakers, displays and even ear buds.


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How to change your Echo’s wake word to ‘Ziggy’

The “wake word” is the name you say out loud to summon Amazon’s digital voice assistant. The steps are the same whether you want to change it to “Ziggy” or any of the other options. There’s the easy way — say, “Alexa [or whatever your current wake word is], change your wake word” and then respond to one of the choices Alexa gives you. Then there’s the hard way:

  1. Open the Alexa app, then tap Devices on the bottom menu bar, tap Echo & Alexa at the top, then tap the name of the device whose wake word you want to change.
  2. Tap the Settings (gear) icon in the upper right corner, then scroll down and tap Wake Word, then tap the one you’d like to use.
  3. A popup will warn you it may take a few minutes to take effect — tap OK.

How to change your Echo’s voice (to work with any wake word)

Just like with wake word, there’s an easy way — “Alexa, change your voice.” Your Echo device will confirm using the new voice. If changing to the masculine-sounding voice, you’ll be told how to change the wake word as well. Then there’s the hard way:

  1. Repeat steps 1 and 2 from above, but instead of Wake Word, tap Alexa’s Voice.
  2. Choose between Original (feminine-sounding) and New (masculine-sounding), then simply back out of that setting.

There you have it — you still don’t have a lot of options (Google Home, for example, has several voices to choose from, although only one possible wake word), but you’ve got more now than ever before.